Johnson Holds Off Tiger to Win Masters

By Associated PressApril 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It all seemed surreal to Zach Johnson. Three clutch birdies on the back nine at the Masters. His name atop the leaderboard. Toppling Tiger Woods. Slipping on the green jacket.
 
'I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,' he said when asked to describe himself. 'That's about it. I'm a normal guy.'
 
Not anymore.
 
Zach Johnson
Defending champ Phil Mickelson helps put on the green jacket for Masters winner Zach Johnson. (WireImage)
Normal guys don't beat Woods in the final round of a major, especially when Woods is in the lead. Normal guys aren't unfazed by the ground-shaking cheers of Woods making an eagle to mount a charge.
 
Jack Fleck was a normal guy from Iowa, too, and he took down the great Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open.
 
Maybe everyone should have seen this one coming.
 
A strange week at Augusta National saved the biggest surprise for the very end -- Johnson as the Masters champion, and beating Woods to get there.
 
'As they say, a giant has got to fall at some point,' he said.
 
Johnson pulled away from Woods and the rest of the pack with three birdies in a pivotal four-hole stretch, closing with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini. It was only the second victory of his career.
 
Woods was within two shots after his eagle on the 13th hole, but all he could muster were pars the rest of the way. His last chance ended when his approach to the 18th settled 20 feet to the right of the pin. And for the first time ever in a major, Woods walked the final hole with no trophy waiting for him at the end and no one behind him on the course
 
'I was sitting in the locker room, waiting for Tiger to hit his shot on 18, and I thought, 'He's done stranger things,'' Johnson said. 'The guy is a phenom. The next person to come along like him, who knows how long that will be? It makes it that much more gratifying knowing I beat Tiger Woods.'
 
Even more gratifying to Johnson was winning on Easter.
 
'My faith is very important to me,' he said. 'I had people looking after me. It was awesome.'
 
The 31-year-old Johnson is the least accomplished Masters champion since Larry Mize, who also had only one PGA Tour victory, chipped in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff 20 years ago.
 
But this was no fluke.
 
The thrills and spills finally returned to Augusta National in the final round. Through it all, Johnson kept his cool.
 
'I felt like I've been blessed and I'm good enough to take home the green jacket,' Johnson said. 'That's what I was trying to tell myself the entire time and it worked out in my favor.'
 
Johnson finished at 1-over 289, matching a Masters record last set in 1956 for highest winning score. And it ended a streak of the winner coming out of the final group at Augusta National ever year since 1991.
 
'He played beautifully,' Woods said. 'Look at the round he shot out there, the score. He did what he needed to do. He went out there, grinded away, made shots he needed to make.'
 
Woods looked like a lock for his fifth Masters and third straight major when he took the lead after a short birdie on the second hole, only this major didn't work out like so many others.
 
Johnson and three other players came after him, and this time Woods was the one who backed off with sloppy mistakes -- a broken club, shots that either found the water or the bunker and too many putts that stayed out of the cup.
 
It was the third time Woods lost a lead during the final round of a major, and the first time he ever failed to get it back.
 
He closed with a 72, the first time as a professional he has played the Masters without breaking par. Goosen and Sabbatini each shot 69 on a day when the course finally allowed something that resembled those fabled charges on the back nine.
 
Johnson chipped away at the myth that the Masters is only for the big boys. He didn't try to reach any of the par 5s in two all week, yet he played them better than anyone with 11 birdies and no bogeys.
 
'I knew if I stayed in the present, I'd do well,' he said. 'I kept rolling that ball, and it was my day, I guess. Pretty lucky.'
 
Defending champion Phil Mickelson presented him the green jacket. It was six years ago when Johnson first showed up at Augusta National with a ticket and followed Lefty around as he tried to stop Woods from a fourth consecutive major.
 
Now, Johnson can come back to play in the Masters as long as he wants as one of the most unlikely champions.
 
Woods walked away bitter again, not so much at his play on Sunday but for the way he finished in previous rounds. A bogey-bogey finish on Saturday that ultimately cost him the lead, and a bogey-bogey finish on Thursday that set the tone for his week.
 
'I had a chance,' Woods said. 'But looking back over the week, I basically blew this tournament on two rounds where I had bogey-bogey finishes. That's 4 over on two holes. You can't afford to do that and win major championships.'
 
Even so, he didn't help himself in the final round.
 
Two shots behind making the turn, Woods found a bunker on the 10th and failed to save par. His tee shot stopped next to a Georgia pine on the next hole, and Woods' 4-iron collided with the tree immediately after he hit the ball, bending the shaft almost in half. He did well to save par there, and seemed to hit another gear on the 13th.
 
With the 4-iron in pieces, he hammered a 5-iron over the creek at the 13th and watched it trickle down the top shelf within 3 feet away for his only eagle of the week.
 
Johnson, who laid up short of the 15th green, was walking to his third shot when he heard the roar and 'I assumed Tiger made eagle' to pull within two shots.
 
Johnson made par from just off the green, then holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th to cap his run and put Woods in position of needing a charge of his own. Woods simply didn't have it.
 
His 15-foot birdie attempt on the 14th broke across the front of the cup. And from the right rough on the 15th, needing to bend the ball around the pines, his 3-iron came up just short and into the water. He pitched to 7 feet to save par and stay in the game.
 
Johnson three-putted from about 35 feet on the 17th for bogey, again leaving Woods hope. But he missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and his approach to the 17th came up short in a bunker.
 
'What the hell was that?' Woods said.
 
Goosen also had his chances, going out in 32 to take the lead and making only one bogey on back nine, a three-putt at No. 12. But it was a peculiar decision to hit iron off the tee at the 510-yard 13th -- easily reachable in two -- and he left himself only an 18-foot attempt for birdie, which he missed. He also laid up on the par-5 15th after driving into the trees.
 
The best chance to catch Johnson belonged to Justin Rose, who made five birdies in a nine-hole stretch through the 16th and was one shot behind until hitting his tee shot into the trees on No. 17 and taking double bogey. Rose finished with a 73 and tied for fifth at 292 with Jerry Kelly (70).
 
Stuart Appleby, who had a one-shot lead over Woods going into the last round, recovered from a double bogey on his opening hole to join a four-way tie for the lead on the back nine until he hit 7-iron into Rae's Creek on the 12th hole and took double bogey.
 
With two double bogeys on his card, he shot 75 and finished four back.
 
'I had too many doubles and a triple,' Appleby said. 'You can handle bogeys out here. But once you do the big numbers, you walk yourself backwards. It was a tough day. I enjoyed the day. Would have loved a rosier finish.'
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''